Monday, August 29, 2011

Thomas Aquinas' "Take" On Divine Emotions in the Summa Contra Gentiles

What's written below is a preliminary sketch of what we find in the SCG regarding God's emotions or lack thereof. I have long been interested in this subject because it seems to me that whether God is moved by our human plight or not, makes a difference theologically and existentially. I hope to develop these basic ideas as time goes on. If not, maybe posterity will finish my work. :)

Best regards,


Summa Contra Gentiles I.LXXXIX.12

Differentiating emotions and passions

"No passion in intellective appetite" (Aquinas)

God does not acquire knowledge through the senses and thus has no sensitive appetite (could this be reversed?), there could be no need for sensitive appetite

Every passion is accompanied by somatic change (alteration) but God is not a body (ST I.3.1, maybe)

Emotions (passions) draw one outside the connatural disposition. But God cannot be withdrawn from outside of the connat. disposition since God is utterly immutable.

Passion has one object

Every passion is also in a subject "that is in potentiality." Yet God has no potential whatsoever.

Sorrow or pain [evils inherently by species] cannot be in God.

Repentance "denotes a change in the appetite." Repentance is a kind of sorrow: it thus implies a change of will.

God cannot be angry:

See SCG I.91.16-18 and II.2.5.9

Friday, August 26, 2011

Eusebius' Account of Irenaeus Addressing the Schismastics


Or just click on the title and you'll be taken to the Eusebius link.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lactantius (Divine Institutes IV.14)

This quote is taken from Lactantius' Divine Institutes IV.14. Lactantius was a 4th-century apologist and historian who lived circa the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325 CE). He writes:

"These are the ways of God, in which He enjoined Him
[Jesus] to walk. These are the precepts which He
ordered to be observed. But He exhibited faith towards
God. For He taught that there is but one God, and that
He alone ought to be worshipped. Nor did He at any
time say that He Himself was God; for He would not
have maintained His faithfulness, if, when sent to
abolish the false gods, and to assert the existence of
the one God, He had introduced another besides that
one. This would have been not to proclaim one God, nor
to do the work of Him who sent Him, but to discharge a
peculiar office for Himself, and to separate Himself
from Him whom He came to reveal. On which account,
because He was so faithful, because He arrogated
nothing at all to Himself, that He might fulfil the
commands of Him who sent Him, He received the dignity
of everlasting Priest, and the honour of supreme King,
and the authority of Judge, and the name of God."

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bruce Malina's Take on New Jerusalem

Salvete omnes:

The books I'm referencing in this blog entry are Bruce Malina's Social-Science Commentary on the Book of Revelation and The New Jerusalem in the Revelation of John.

I must initially place my biases on the table before presenting what Malina has to write about Rev. 21:16. Having read through his social-science commentary on Revelation and most of his book about the New Jerusalem, I must admit that I am not overly impressed with Malina's method of explaining Revelation's contents. John was more than some seer beholding "visions" as a result of some altered state of consciousness (ASC): it seems that he was divinely inspired by God to behold visions and record them for later generations. I just had to get that out of the way.

While I am not a big fan of Malina's approach to the GNT, his comments on Rev. 21:16 appear to be quite helpful. In The New Jerusalem, Malina notes that the "holy city" is "of astronomical proportions, since it measures 12,000 stadia in length, width, and height" (page 54).

After observing that the city is a cube, Malina cites Pliny's Natural History which reports that a Greek stadion is equivalent to 125 Roman paces or 625 feet. The city of New Jerusalem, if measured in accordance with Pliny's comments, would extend through half of the US and "reach the height of 260 Mount Everests (the top of Mount Everest stands 29,028 feet above sea level). Furthermore, the city was of transparent gold, 'gold like pure crystal'" (Ibid).

A simple point I want to make is that the city of New Jerusalem which John saw coming down out of heaven from God must be symbolic. That is, unless we are to believe that one day a grand polis which can extend through half of the United States and is simultaneously equal in height to 260 Mount Everests will somehow literally fit on the earth as the new city further shines in all its golden splendor.

I don't think so. :-)

Friday, August 05, 2011

My Amazon Review of Tim Weldon's Book "Subtle Wisdom"

Review of Subtle Wisdom: John Duns Scotus's Philosophy of the Human Person

The Franciscan friar John Duns Scotus is known as the "Subtle Doctor" (Doctor Subtilis). He earned this designation by showing evidence that his mind was acute or capable of making important distinctions. Whether one agrees with Scotus doctrinally or philosophically, his thoughts on metaphysics and the human person are worthy of consideration. The late Etienne Gilson appropriately said that Scotus was no "mean metaphysician." In this small but effective work on Scotus, Tim Weldon clearly and intriguingly brings out the significance of Scotus' thought on the human person.

In the work "Subtle Wisdom" we learn about the historical background of Duns Scotus. The Subtle Doctor was apparently born in Scotland, educated at Oxford, lectured and served as regent master of theology in France, then died at Cologne (Germany). The year 1992 was also important from a Scotist perspective in view of the fact that Pope John Paul II pronounced Scotus "Blessed," thereby paving the way to sainthood for the Medieval thinker. It's also interesting to discover that Scotus produced a number of complex philosophical-theological works in his short lifetime. Weldon provides an approximate chronological outline of Scotus' oeuvre on pages 11-12. Editions for these works and their Latin titles are supplied in this portion of Weldon's book.

What constitutes the human person for Scotus? What does it mean to be a person? Weldon insists that Scotus would summarize human personhood in terms of love (page 14). That is the Franciscan way. To demonstrate this point, Weldon quotes Augustine of Hippo ("My weight is my love"), The Seraphic Doctor (Bonaventure) and other Franciscans who bear witness to the idea that Franciscans tend to define the human person within the context of love while affirming a teleology that represents God as the final cause of all things (human beings included). All things have come from God; hence, all things return to Him.

For Scotus, not only are we knowers, we are principally and inherently lovers as well. The Bible commands that we love God first, then it enjoins us to love our neighbors. Love is that which defines human persons: other theologians have called love "the primal ethical." But just what does the term "love" mean? Plato visited this question in his famous work "Symposium." However, in everyday conversation, the word "love" is used somewhat ambiguously. Scotus nonetheless views the will as "the seat of love and ethical action in the human person" (51). He argues that the will is rational, it's the locus of choice that is capable of acting in harmony with reason. Since for Scotus, the will's object is the good (bonum), the will "is inclined to self-determine in accordance with the good" (53). He also believes that we have no greater obligation than to love God (Deus diligendus est). Yet love for neighbor and ourselves is presupposed in the command to love God. And how do we manifest love for God or neighbor unless such love is willed by us?

Weldon touches on an aspect of Scotus' thought that can be particularly difficult to understand, namely, the philosophical concept of haecceities. Scotus coined the Latin term "haecceitas." Although it may be to some extent opaque, the concept seems to reveal something profound about the human person. Human persons are unique: they are "unequivocally, irreducibly, and indivisibly unique" for Scotus (66). The teaching about haecceities thus emphasizes the metaphysical role of individuation or it seeks to clarify in what sense things are individuated. Haecceitas literally means "thisness" (68). It potentially signifies the personal and indistinguishable nature of humans:

"As a determining, individuating principle, the genius of the concept of haecceity and its sacred reality has to be understood within the Franciscan worldview, specifically the Scotistic framework of creation and the place of the human person within creation" (70).

Weldon has briefly provided readers with a preliminary education of the Subtle Doctor.